The number of fungal specimens in North Carolina State University’s Mycological Herbarium is relatively small in relation to other collections, but N.C. State’s collection is a scientifically significant and valuable resource. Indeed, one might call it grand.
And, in fact, that is what the collection is now called, the Larry F. Grand Mycological Herbarium at N.C. State University. The fungi collection has been named in honor of Dr. Larry Grand, professor and teaching coordinator in the Department of Plant Pathology, which seems only fitting.
Grand, who plans to retire in the summer of 2012, has been involved with the herbarium since joining the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty in 1967. He has served as curator of the fungi collection since 1970. For those who are counting, that means Grand will mark more than 40 years as curator when he retires next summer.
What had been the Mycological Herbarium officially became the Grand Mycological Herbarium during a Nov. 3 dedication ceremony. A symposium featuring a number of N.C. State alumni who went on to become internationally recognized mycologists and plant pathologists was organized in conjunction with the dedication.
Alumni who gave symposium presentations were Deborah R. Fravel, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Program Leader, Plant Health; D. Jean Lodge, with the USDA Forest Service in Puerto Rico, and Lee Miller, Extension turfgrass pathologist at the University of Missouri.
In addition, Amy Y. Rossman, of the USDA Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Lab in Belstville, Maryland, gave a presentation on the ideal fungal herbarium, while the keynote address was delivered by David S. Hibbett, Warren Litsky ‘45 Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Biology at Clark University and current Mycological Society of America president.
The symposium and dedication were co-chaired and hosted by Dr. Marc Cubeta, plant pathology professor, and Catherine Maxwell, director of development for the NC Agricultural and Life Sciences Research Foundation. The dedication and symposium concluded with an evening reception at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Cubeta, who is working with Grand to put information about the herbarium collection online, said the collection is an important scientific resource. Cubeta said a user-friendly database is being developed to provide teachers, regulatory agencies and researchers with easy access to herbarium’s unique collection of fungi that cause plant diseases and wood decay. The database will be available at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/plantpath/activities/labs-projects/myherb/ .
Internet access to this valuable collection and the baseline of data it establishes will benefit state and federal regulatory agencies concerned with the introduction of invasive species of fungi that harm humans and plants. The collection may also lead to the identification of fungi that can be used to convert wood into biofuels, improve soil health and serve as indicators of climate change. In addition to its use by the scientific and regulatory community, the database will be an important resource for educating and training high school biology teachers, students and the general public about the importance of fungi to society and for understanding their distribution and biodiversity in unique ecosystems.
The Grand Mycological Herbarium contains the largest collection of wood decay fungi from the Southeast U.S. along with unique specimens from different geographic regions of North Carolina, Cubeta said. The herbarium contains specimens from one of the last remaining native stands of long leaf pine in North Carolina and from Nags Head Woods, the largest contiguous maritime forest on a barrier island in the eastern U.S.
Cubeta said Grand and his students collected many of the specimens.
Grand called the attachment of his name to the facility in which he has played such a defining role “a singular honor. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often.”
And even though Grand will retire next year, he will continue to be associated with the mycological herbarium. He plans to continue to serve as curator, in a part-time capacity, for five years.
Written by: Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or firstname.lastname@example.org